North Korea Thinks America Started Ebola

October 19, 2020 Topic: Ebola Region: Asia Blog Brand: Korea Watch Tags: North KoreaEbolaPropagandaInformation WarfarePublic Health

North Korea Thinks America Started Ebola

Don’t believe Pyongyang’s propaganda.

For as long as there have been pandemics and other outbreaks of disease, there have been some seeking to blame that disease on enemy governments.

This has happened with coronavirus, with various parties in the United States claiming that the virus that caused this year’s pandemic was intentionally created in a lab in China. Some Chinese officials, in turn, have floated the theory that the virus was in fact created by the U.S. Army. There is, perhaps needless to say, scant evidence for the veracity of either theory.

That was also the case back in 2014, during the Ebola crisis, when one government official in North Korea claimed that the United States was responsible for the spread of that disease. Even though the epicenter of the Ebola epidemic, in West Africa, was half a world away from both the United States and North Korea.

Hong Sun Gwang, vice president of North Korea’s State Sanitary Inspection Board, described the United States as “kingpin of human rights abusers in the world” and had caused the spread of Ebola.

The Washington Post reported on the comments at the time, citing the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA.) The official also cited “an aide to ex-U.S. President Reagan,” who had supposedly admitted in an article that the U.S., in the 1980s, “developed a progenitor of Ebola virus at bio-weapon institutes built in West African countries for the purpose of launching a biological warfare.”

That appeared to be a reference to Paul Craig Roberts, who for a time in the 1980s served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy. Roberts had written a blog post, also in 2014, citing academic articles by a pair of professors who believe that the U.S. government created Ebola.

The articles look familiar to anyone who has followed conspiracy theories about coronavirus, with academics laying out the case that the “official” version isn't true. However, one of the academics is a law professor, and the Post piece described those views as “fringe.” And Roberts' blog post does not constitute an admission that the government had created Ebola, and it was published decades after Roberts left government service.

During the Ebola flare-up of 2013-2016, there was much fear that the epidemic would spread widely in the United States. However, only one American—a doctor named Thomas Duncan who had returned to the United States after traveling to Liberia to treat Ebola patients—died of the disease, while three other Americans who got Ebola were treated and survived.

In October of 2014, Donald Trump tweeted that because Duncan had been allowed back into America, President Barack Obama “should apologize to the United States and resign.”

Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Image: A digitally colorized scanning electron micrograph depiction shows numerous filamentous Ebola virus particles in green, budding from a chronically infected VERO E6 cell in orange at 25,000X magnification in this undated handout picture from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).